cake screen 3.jpg



How can Cake Shop thrive
without selling out?


Scope: 3 weeks

Role: Research, Interviews with Stakeholders, Strategy , Service Design

Team: Tyler Gumb, Amsha Kalra, Nour Malaeb, Janel Wong

Summary: Cake Shop is an underground rock venue that has been in lower Manhattan for over 10 years. Though it is a small venue with an atmosphere and style more suited to the Lower Manhattan of the 90s than the newly gentrified Lower East Side, it is highly respected amongst musicians and other creatives. We performed a deep analysis of the venue and surrounding market context, including interviews with owner and booker and surveys of peoples live music habits. Drawing upon our research of Cake Shop and the larger music industry in 2016, we proposed innovations toward acheiving three overarching goals for Cake Shop: become a leader in music discovery, create a welcoming space for first time visitors and facilitate an ongoing relationship with the venue among repeat visitors. We think there is real opportunity for Cake Shop to revitalize itself, bring back in those regulars from five years ago, and become the cutting edge tastemakers Nick knows they should be.



While Cake Shop is small it has had quite an impact in the music world and is respected by major artists.

Cake Shop is essentially two businesses running in parallel: one is a cafe and bar upstairs that opens at noon and the other is a performance space in the basement. Acts like Vampire Weekend have played there and Louis CK dropped in recently for a surprise performance during one of their Tuesday night comedy shows.



We immersed ourselves in the context of Cake Shop by performing multiple forms of research including observational, desk, the creation of a survey and interviews with stakeholders at Cake Shop and other venues.


The neighborhood has several venues on the same block. We visited them for competitor analysis

  • Arlene’s Grocery: Large and inviting, well lit but not bright, place you would want to be seen
  • Pianos: Weren’t able to get in because of long line
  • Cake Shop: Empty, musicians mingle with audience, felt like everyone knew each other, dark and uninviting, weak signal, everyone seemed to know each other in the audience

We conducted general industry research to understand the broader market context and decide on a project scope, as well as review sites and news articles related to Cake Shop.

Yelp was a valuable resource and provided some colorful commentary on the venue.


Significant findings from our survey were that the vast majority of people know the artist before attending a show and hear about shows from their friends. This illustrates the importance of drawing people in with bands they are familiar with.


We interviewed Nick Bodor, the co-owner of Cake Shop, in person at the venue. Cake Shop is very much the product of Nick and Andy’s combined experience and dreams. From interviewing Nick we established his short and long term goals for the venue.

Additionally we interviewed Steven Matrick, the talent buyer for Pianos, a bar and music venue on the same block as Cake Shop. He spoke directly on the differences between the way he books shows for Pianos and the way Cake Shop is run. Steven keeps a meticulous database of how many tickets each band sells and refers back to it whenever rebooking them. If a band does not sell tickets he will not book them again.


Synthesizing our research we came up with a set of salient attributes that give Cake Shop its unique character and provide the incentive for people to purchase tickets and frequent the venue.


We crafted three personas based off our ethnographic research and interviews we performed at the venue.


Keeping our personal experience at Cake Shop and all our personas in mind, we plotted a customer journey map and touchpoint mapping diagram.




Client Feedback

We were able to get some time with Nick on the phone and ran him through our solutions and phasing plan. He was receptive to most of our proposals and had even thought of implementing variants of them previously but had been unable to primarily because of time.